St. Edward Catholic Church

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- With Kentucky's COVID-19 mandates being lifted Friday, some local churches are preparing to gather without restrictions for the first time in more than a year.

At St. Edward Catholic Church in Jeffersontown, the parking lot is becoming picnic grounds for the first time since 2019. The parish is the first in Louisville to resume holding the traditional church picnic.

“We had originally decided a month ago not to when things were still locked down,” picnic co-chair Mark Veigl said.

But St. Edward reversed course and decided to stage the event after Gov. Andy Beshear announced he was lifting the coronavirus mandates June 11.

“What we normally plan in six months we pulled off three to four weeks,” Veigl said.

The picnic is part fundraiser, part social event.

“It's bringing back people," co-chair Cathy Cooke said. "It's 'Oh, it's so good to see you.' That kind of thing. Not to have that last year, everybody felt so disconnected.”

St. Edward is also planning to resume full capacity services this weekend.

“We have actually taken the markings off so you don't have to sit in every other pew,” Cooke said.

“Last year, we just got a new pastor," Veigl added. "So for some people, they're just meeting the pastor for the first time."

Across town, Beargrass Christian Church in St. Matthews is proceeding with caution despite the lifting of the mandates.

“We're not only focused on what the state or local governments allows us to do but also what is our moral responsibility,” Senior Minister Trey Flowers said.

Flowers said the church will continue to hold socially-distanced services for now.

“We know that there are people that have various health conditions in our own congregation,” he said. “We have lots of little kids here every week who don't have access to the vaccine.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beargrass began streaming services online, and plans to continue.

“Now that we've got this really invaluable tool as part of our infrastructure for the search, it's going to continue to be a great way to connect with people,” Flowers said.

At St. Edward, picnic organizers said there will be plenty of hand sanitizer around, and surfaces will be regularly wiped down. But Cooke said the church plans to celebrate the return to normal.

“This year, we feel like the picnic is going to be, 'Hey, we've beaten COVID,'” he said.

Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.